After a promising rookie year in which he averaged 10.2 points and 4.9 rebounds per game, the Chicago Bulls’ Nikola Mirotic is expected to take on a larger role this season. Mirotic will hold the key to the Bulls’ success in the 2015-16 NBA season.
At first you may think, “why Mirotic?” With Taj Gibson, Joakim Noah, Pau Gasol and Bobby Portis, the Bulls have so many other big men. But among the Bulls’ big men, Mirotic certainly appears to be the most well rounded. Gibson and Noah, while extremely talented defensive players, still haven’t proven that they can be valuable offensive assets. Gasol, at the age of 35, is naturally expected to regress. And Portis, the rookie out of Arkansas, has never even played in a regular season game.
When the Bulls made Fred Hoiberg their new head coach this offseason, they made it clear that one of their main goals will be to improve their offense. During his tenure at Iowa State, Hoiberg utilized a pro-style offensive system that centered around three-point shooting. If Hoiberg chooses to use a similar system with the Bulls, it will directly benefit Mirotic as he possesses an above average three-point shot for a big man.
If Mirotic can establish his three-point shot early in the season, the Bulls’ offense should improve tremendously when he’s on the floor. Defenders will be forced to cover him outside the arc, thus creating more space down low and opening up more passing lanes. This has already happened throughout the preseason, leading to good ball movement and open looks.
With Mike Dunleavy sidelined with a back injury, Mirotic could potentially even see time at the small forward position. The other two small forwards on the Bulls’ roster, Tony Snell and Doug McDermott, haven’t proven much at the NBA level. Plus, playing Mirotic at small forward would allow Hoiberg to give more playing time to the aforementioned slew of talented big men the Bulls have.